Guard company grows monitoring biz

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Sunday, June 1, 2003

VANCOUVER, Wash. - A company with interests in armored cars and private security guards has opened up shop in the alarm monitoring arena in an effort to become a one-stop shop for many of its current customer’s needs.

Metro Watch, based here, opened an alarm monitoring center in its headquarters in late 2002 and already has an account base in the hundreds, according to Sam Burton, Metro Watch’s corporate manager of operations and technical services. In the Northwest, where many communities have beefed up false alarm fines and where several cities have implemented verified response policies, customers have responded enthusiastically to the offering.

“There was opportunity in the market here, where there really is not a lot of companies offering that service bundled together,” Burton said. “We have the most information - we get the alarm, we continue to monitor the alarm and if it’s canceled, our guards have that information right at their fingertips.”

One of the company’s largest customers and one taking advantage of the bundled service offering is a major school district with 65 locations. Metro Watch provides alarm monitoring, alarm response, onsite patrols and armored courier services to that customer.

Company officials at Metro Watch, a six-year-old company with $3.6 million in annual revenue, expect that while the alarm monitoring sector of its operations will never eclipse that of its on-site patrol or armored car transport business, it could grow to Metro Watch’s “most profitable per capita division,” said Doug Harvey, Metro Watch’s president and chief executive officer. The company has about 45 vehicles in its current fleet.

To start up the monitoring arm, Metro Watch invested about $200,000 in equipment, including Sur-Gard receivers and Micro Key Software’s Millennium Series software, and other renovation costs to build its three-station central station. Based on current projections, the company will soon need to build a central station with six to 10 workstations, Burton said. That expansion will also likely mean pursuing certification from Underwriters Laboratories, which Metro Watch does not yet have.

“There are some major renovations that are needed in the building that we lease,” Harvey said. “We will eventually get there soon but at this point, it hasn’t been critical for us.”

A UL listing would also enable the company to grow its small contract monitoring business as well as a dealer program that the company is looking to get off the ground, Burton said.

The company, which has about 200 employees, just opened up a new field office in Tacoma, Wash., in April.